UM’s Manny Diaz affirms ‘I’m going to be defensive coordinator’; introduces new defensive assistants

David Furones, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·5 min read

Miami Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz reconstructed the defensive side of his coaching staff this offseason.

But when he did it, he left a glaring omission: No one has the title of defensive coordinator. That went away with Blake Baker moving on to become linebackers coach at LSU.

After Diaz brought in Travaris Robinson as defensive backs coach, brought back Jess Simpson as defensive line coach, hired Auburn’s Travis Williams to coach linebackers and promoted DeMarcus Van Dyke to cornerbacks coach from his previous recruiting role, Diaz on Wednesday affirmed where his defense stands in terms of its coordinator.

“I’m going to be the defensive coordinator,” said Diaz, who held that role at Miami for three seasons before taking over as head coach in 2019, “and what I’ve done as defensive coordinator is what I’m going to do.

“Now, I’ve got some great guys on the staff that I can certainly delegate some things to, but for this to work, I’ve got to be able to go all in.”

Diaz feels confident he can take on the added responsibility for a number of reasons.

“One, we’ve got a very experienced football team,” he said. “We’ve got a team that knows me very well. There’s not a concern of an offense-defense divide that you’re only the head coach for one side of the ball, which I think would’ve been the case if I had done this from the jump.

“A guy like [offensive coordinator] Rhett Lashlee, who has done a great job with our offense, not just schematically, but handling that side of the ball and leading them. Our offensive leadership with [quarterback] D’Eriq [King], so many of the players that have come back.”

Wednesday was National Signing Day, but with Miami’s recruiting class wrapped up during December’s Early Signing Period and the team welcoming three transfers since, the day instead allowed Diaz to announce to the team and media his intentions to run his defense and introduce his new additions to the coaching staff.

“Their enthusiasm is obvious,” said Diaz of his hires. “I would say attention to detail and accountability are two things that really stand out. … They’re all really good teachers, been exposed to a lot of great places, great defensive minds, great thoughts, but more than anything, I think they’ve got great ability to connect with the players, which is ultimately what it’s about.”

It will help Diaz that, on top of already having three offensive assistants with coordinator experience — offensive line coach Garin Justice and wide receivers coach Rob Likens, along with Lashlee — Robinson, the new defensive backs coach was defensive coordinator at South Carolina the past five seasons.

“I feel the tradition here,” said Robinson, a Miami native coming home with 15 years of college coaching experience, including stops at Florida and Auburn. “I feel what coach Diaz and the rest of the staff is doing here. I felt it was something that I could really come in and help build upon, something great. Coach Diaz is doing a tremendous job of getting the program where it needs to be. I think he’s doing it with the right people that are bringing in the right kids.”

Simpson returns to UM, where he was defensive line coach in 2018, after holding the same role with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons the past two seasons.

“Coming back here was an easy decision,” Simpson said. “Having a chance to go where somebody really wants you and then, for me, having a chance to come back to a place where I was familiar with the scheme and with the people and the place, when that was thrown out there, that wasn’t a hard decision for me and my family.”

Van Dyke, a former Hurricanes cornerback, called it “a dream come true” to now be promoted into the coaching staff with former cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph now in Van Dyke’s old position in the recruiting department.

“I think I can bring a lot to the table,” Van Dyke said. “My knowledge to the game. I played a long time, and my relationship with the kids, the community, the recruits, everything.”

Williams, a former Auburn linebacker who comes to Miami after holding the same linebackers coach role with his alma mater, repeatedly expressed his excitement of joining a program with as rich a history as Miami. It’s something he got across to his new players right away in meeting them.

“Before we got into Xs and Os, I really wanted them to understand, we are at the U, which I really think is Linebacker U,” Williams said. “We went through all the linebackers that came through here. They just have to understand [that] these guys that laid the foundation and laid the bricks around here.”

In Diaz’s quest to also be a coordinator, it helps that he added someone with extensive defensive coordinator experience, Bob Shoop, on the support staff as a quality control coach.

“Bob is going to help us by, through his experience, being able to look at us from that 30,000-foot viewpoint,” Diaz said. “Another set of eyes in terms of what we’re doing, maybe seeing us the way, through self-scout, seeing us the way others see us week in and week out. Bob will be able to work a week ahead of us [in the schedule], as well.”

On top of Shoop on the support staff, former defensive line coach Todd Stroud, who also had the title of assistant head coach, is starting his new role as senior football advisor.